Gold Standard of Care in the Operating Rooms

“With the state-of-the-art equipment that the SPHHF has provided us, we can really provide gold standard care here; care that has put us on the map.” – Carrie Tuck, RN

“The Foundation has been astronomically important in our ability to have our nurses feel that they’re doing the best they possibly can,” says Carrie Tuck, RN, who notes that the Foundation plays a vital role in supplying much needed equipment that enables OR nurses to provide the best outcomes and surgical care for patients. But SPHHF’s support is also fundamental to the overall working environment that makes SPH such a special place to work.

“I moved to Saanich Peninsula Hospital because I was looking for a better work/life balance, which a smaller centre can provide,” says Carrie Tuck, who is currently the Charge Nurse in the Operating Room at SPH. “Having grown up in a very small town in southern Alberta, I prefer the smaller community-style hospitals.”

Previously the acting OR manager at SPH, Carrie Tuck began her career in 2005 as an LPN in the surgical units of Alberta’s hospitals. She started her nursing degree through Athabasca University while working in a catheterization laboratory, and after transferring to Victoria with her husband, Carrie finished her RN degree and preceptorship in the OR at Victoria General Hospital in 2016. She transferred to the OR at Saanich Peninsula Hospital In November of 2020.

At SPH, Carrie found a home. Not only does the Hospital provide a high standard of care, the morale of staff is high. Nurses come to work knowing they are surrounded by a team that cares about them both as an individual and for the work they do. It’s an environment where nurses know their careers can flourish, no matter whether they’re freshly out of nursing school, or senior leaders with a wealth of knowledge and experience. It’s an environment where nurses want to stay long term, and where Carrie says they come to work every day, ready to give back 150% to their patients.

“The staff initiatives that the Foundation supplies is second to none,” says Carrie, speaking about a recent Staff Appreciation Day, where the Foundation brought in food trucks and tents where staff from all departments gathered. “This was such an uplifting event for the team! It was just smiles for miles.” It’s those little things, Carrie says, that makes her passionate about coming to work everyday.

“Without the donors, we couldn’t do any of this,” Carrie adds. “It’s truly the community—the donors—that complete the full circle of care at our hospital. Without them, we wouldn’t have the state-of-the-art care, and we wouldn’t have the passion that drives our surgical services department. I’d like to express the most massive thank you to the donors.”

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The surgical department at SPH is providing record surgeries for area residents, thanks to three Operating suites and a new Surgical Daycare.

To maintain that gold standard of care, staff are in need of surgical equipment for all three Operating Rooms including:

  • Anaesthesia machines
  • Cystoscopes
  • IV pumps
  • A new OR table

Supporting Community Care with the Doctor of the Day Program

“The environment we work in extends to the Hospital Foundation in that they’re just as easy to access and communicate with as any other colleague here.” – Dr. Andrew Kwasnica

As a family physician at Shoreline Medical and ER doctor, Dr. Andrew Kwasnica grew up in Cordova Bay and joined Shoreline shortly after he finished his medical training. He was drawn to the Saanich Peninsula Hospital’s Emergency department by the breadth of experience available to primary care providers.

“The Doctor of the Day Program expands what the Hospital is able to provide, because its primary role is to take care of patients who are ‘unattached’—meaning they don’t have a family doctor,” says Dr. Kwasnica.

“Not only does the program keep the Hospital afloat, but it also acts as an attraction for new doctors who are looking to either come to the peninsula, or perform locums. In that way, Doctor of the Day becomes a recruitment and retention tool, because most of the doctors who have come here in the past five to ten years were attracted by that program.”

As part of the Workforce Planning and Scheduling Group, Dr. Kwasnica is well-versed in what draws physicians to the community. He says the Doctor of the Day Program is structured in a way to incentivise physicians to provide local care in the community. “We’re very good at satisfying everyone’s needs, whether doctors have been here for thirty years, or three months. We offer the flexibility to come and go, and hopefully stay.”

Beyond the support the Foundation brings to Shoreline Medical which in turn, operates the Doctor of the Day Program, Dr. Kwasnica says donor support is integral to the high standard of care patients receive at SPH, and also to staff morale.

“The Foundation has a great interest in supporting patient care in all sorts of ways, like raising funds for the new CT Scanner,” says Dr. Kwasnica. “But the Foundation also takes a great interest in the care and wellbeing of the doctors, nurses, and every other role in the Hospital.”

Last year, Dr. Kwasnica approached the Foundation to ask if they’d support setting up a basketball hoop for staff to use, complete with basketballs in men’s and women’s sizes. The basketball hoop is a simple way for staff to practise self-care at work. “I can’t imagine another hospital where I could ask for that kind of support. It means so much just to know that we have access to that support when we need it.”

Saanich Peninsula Hospital is the kind of place where people enjoy coming to work everyday, and the Foundation, Dr. Kwasnica says, plays an integral role in fostering that environment. “The expansile nature of the camaraderie and collegialism of the entire community at large in healthcare is a very unique feature here. It’s magical.”

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Preparing for the Future in Primary Care

“Our Foundation is excellent at communication — encouraging our youth, who are our future, to consider careers in healthcare; and also encouraging people to share kindness and love for one another.” – Dr. Brendon Irvine

“The crisis in Primary Care is on everyday news now,” says Dr. Irvine. “The reasons for that are complex and long standing. We’re in the process of having both Government voices hear it, and of course, our community knows and feels the shortages we face.”

Along with the Foundation, Dr. Irvine and others in leadership have made big strides towards providing better access to Primary Care on the peninsula. “The most important initiative has been to create a support system for community family doctors, with Shoreline Medical in particular, to help cover the cost of capital improvements necessary to create space for patient care,” says Dr. Irvine. And, since Shoreline doctors also help staff the ER, they are able to support their patients both in the office and at the Hospital.

“That combination—of the Foundation reaching out to community doctors to help their cost structure to make it viable to work in family practice, along with the rural-based practice model—has been a key recipe that allowed us to not be as badly off as we otherwise might have been,” says Dr. Irvine.

Although Dr. Brendon Irvine didn’t always know he wanted to be a doctor, he started volunteering at Royal Jubilee Hospital when he was a teenager. Helping people is his passion. Except for short stints practising family medicine in emergency departments in rural communities as well as time in Victoria’s hospitals, Saanich Peninsula Hospital is where he’s spent much of his career.

As a fully qualified Emergency physician with a background in community medicine, Dr. Irvine brought an invaluable perspective when he joined SPF in 2002; and has played a fundamental role in building the department into the sophisticated facility it is today. As both an Emergency physician and part of the Hospital’s leadership team, Dr. Irvine is working hard to find solutions to the challenges that currently face Primary Care.

It’s a model for Primary Care that works well in the community. Physicians say they are satisfied, as the system allows them greater learning and career opportunities. “We also have a very strong involvement with nursing and medical students,” Dr. Irvine adds, “which allows us to show and teach this example of combined community and hospital care.”

Dr. Irvine says the ER, where he spends his clinical hours, sees problems when the Primary Care system starts to fail. As patients have more trouble accessing routine care, there is a rise in delayed diagnosis of things like cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. Emergency has seen a steady increase in demand, which means that staff shortages compound the problem.

Donors can help. Through financial contributions to the Foundation, and also by serving as volunteers in the Hospital, individuals in the community can play a direct role in ensuring the Hospital continues to provide access to Primary Care on the peninsula.

“We want to have good services for our families, because this is our community,” says Dr. Irvine. “Thirty years into my career, I’m still finding great rewards. I’m very proud of our team to have gone through challenging times over the past three years, and still show up with compassion and the ability to care well for people.”

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Gifts to the Foundation support incentives provided to community physicians who commit to work in the Hospital through the Doctor of The Day program, providing career opportunities and a desirable work environment that attracts new doctors to the peninsula.

By continuing to foster the close relationship between the Hospital medical team and Primary Care on the Saanich Peninsula, the Foundation helps ensure the SPH is able to meet the growing needs of the community.

Life-Saving Care in the Emergency Room

“It’s not overstating things to say that the hospital and Emergency department, in particular, might not be here without the Foundation and its donors.” – Dr. Jeff Unger

As an emergency physician for twenty-three years, Dr. Jeff Unger has spent a decade developing specialised expertise with resuscitation. Along with others on the Saanich Peninsula Hospital’s Emergency team, Dr. Unger has trained extensively in advanced cardiac life support care, aided by a simulation mannequin purchased by the Foundation. That training has saved many lives over the years, and is part of what makes the Emergency Department equipped and prepared to handle patient care in a way that many other small hospitals are not able to do.

“The new Emergency, which was built in 2003 thanks to funding from the Foundation, expanded the department from six beds to eighteen, and it has functioned so well for nearly twenty years,” says Dr. Unger, who credits the Foundation for making sure that Emergency staff are trained and prepared with the right equipment for anything that might come through the Emergency doors.

Dr. Unger also remembers a time when the Hospital Emergency did not have a CT scan until the Foundation raised funds to purchase a new one. “We now have one of the best CT scans in the province, allowing us to do special imaging of the heart. The Royal Jubilee and Victoria General don’t have that technology, so our scan filled an important niche; again, thanks to the support of the Foundation.”

It’s that support that fosters the high morale and positive working environment that attracted Dr. Unger to the Saanich Peninsula Hospital in the first place. “I could tell that Saanich Peninsula Hospital was a special place right from the get-go,” he says. He currently works full time at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, both as the ER doctor and in administration, travelling occasionally to do healthcare work internationally. “This really feels to me like a living, breathing building. It needs to be cared for and nurtured and cleaned and supported, and that involves everyone—security, the cleaning staff, the people who make meals for patients, the doctors and nurses—it really feels like a family.”

That feeling, says Dr. Unger, is unique to the SPH. His career has taken him across Canada and internationally—to Nepal, Vanuatu and Africa. Later, when he and his wife settled in Victoria in 2001 to raise their family, Dr. Unger worked in Emergency departments throughout the South Island; including Nanaimo, Duncan, Royal Jubilee, Victoria General, and eventually, Saanich Peninsula Hospital. At SPH, he has found the perfect place to be able to give back.

“It feels like a wonderful responsibility to care for people in this community, including the four First Nations. There’s a special connection here between the Hospital and the community, and staff work really hard to be diverse, inclusive and supportive of everyone in the community.” As Dr. Unger and his team continue to face the challenges posed by staffing shortages and increasing demands on the Emergency as the local population ages and grows, they know the Foundation and its donors are there to offer support in every way possible.

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“To have the Foundation offering us the opportunity to get tools and equipment that are helpful for our care is immeasurable.” – Dr. Carrie Wilhelm-Boyles

“The SPH is so different from what I’m used to in the larger hospitals,” says Dr. Wilhelm-Boyles, who joined Saanich Peninsula Hospital’s Emergency department in June of 2021, after several years in Vancouver. “Here, we have a little bit of extra time to make a personal connection with patients, instead of just managing the medical issues. And the staff are fabulous. I was stunned when I found out how gifted the nurses are. Because there isn’t a large staff, each nurse does more than what a regular nurse would do. They are so talented!”

Originally a pianist with a Masters degree in music, Dr. Carrie Wilhelm-Boyles fulfilled her dream of a career in medicine in her mid-thirties. After attending medical school in Winnipeg, Dr. Wilhelm-Boyles spent several years at Surrey Memorial Hospital before moving to the island to make her home in North Saanich with her husband. Although she enjoyed the fast pace of larger hospitals, Dr. Wilhelm-Boyles says there’s a close camaraderie amongst the SPH staff that she hadn’t experienced before. Being such a small site, Hospital staff also have a special relationship with community members who come through Emergency’s doors.

Often, patients have a history of care that ER doctors are aware of, due in part to the Doctor of the Day Program, which brings in family doctors to help staff the ER. “It’s so great to have general practitioners here,” says Dr. Wilhelm-Boyles. “As an Emergency physician, I don’t practise family medicine, so it’s helpful to have their perspective for things like referrals to specialists, and follow up care. Having general practitioners right here in the ER also helps fill the gap for people who don’t have a family physician.”

In a small community, there’s a direct connection between each donor who gives to the Foundation, and the daily operations in the Hospital, and Dr. Wilhelm-Boyles says staff members feel those positive impacts every day. “Everybody here is so grateful to the Foundation for all the things they’ve done over the years.”

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Help us fund life-saving equipment.

Now with patient attachment to family physicians at a critical low, people are relying on our hospital Emergency Department as a source for comprehensive care. Due to this increased volume, departmental equipment and support needs have increased dramatically.

Dear Fellow Supporter,

After I became a surgeon at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital in 2001, I saw a mammoth change in what I was able to do as a surgeon because of what the Foundation provided to this hospital. For me, the decision to support the Foundation—both as a board member for the last nine years, and now as this year’s Campaign Chair has been an easy one, and an honour.

From the new CT scanner, Operating Rooms and Surgical Daycare, to the renovation of the Palliative Care unit, it’s been wonderful to see what the Foundation has achieved during my time with the Board. Thanks to you and this community, who so generously donate every year, we’ve been able to continuously expand care and recruit medical professionals who are passionately dedicated to providing exemplary care close to home.

Medicine is constantly changing; state-of-the-art equipment and training of doctors and staff saves lives. This year, I ask you to help us enhance our equipment for Emergency and the Operating Room so doctors and staff can better diagnose and treat patients. Your gift will also support our dedicated hospital staff and enable us to improve access to primary care to meet the growing needs of the community. I know that with your help, our hospital will continue to provide life saving care.

Dr. Michael (Mick) Brown, General Surgeon
Honourary Chair, 2022 Campaign

Donor Stories

All of our donors are special. We’d like to share with you a few donor stories that we think you’ll especially enjoy.

Donor Stories

All of our donors are special. We’d like to share with you a few donor stories that we think you’ll especially enjoy.

Commerce for Care

Corporate donations help take the pressure off Foundation operating costs.

Commerce for Care

Corporate donations help take the pressure off Foundation operating costs.

Legacy Giving

After talking to donors for 20 years, I know that some want to have an immediate impact; others want to leave a longer-lasting imprint.

Legacy Giving

After talking to donors for 20 years, I know that some want to have an immediate impact; others want to leave a longer-lasting imprint.

Copyright Saanich Peninsula Hospital & Healthcare Foundation | SPHHF Privacy Statement | All Rights Reserved | Crafted by FOE & Holy Cow Communication Design Inc.

With gratitude we respectfully recognize and acknowledge that the Saanich Peninsula Hospital & Healthcare Foundation offices
are located on the traditional unceded territories of the WSÁNEĆ and Lekwungen peoples.

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